This German film takes religion to the extreme

Watch an exclusive clip from Stations of the Cross – which offers an unsettling POV on faith and worship

Stations of the Cross, the new film from otherwise unknown German director Dietrich Brüggemann is remarkable. It’s a about a 14-year-old girl growing up in a catholic-extremist family and finding herself so unable to cope with the pressures of it that she takes a pious priest’s diatribe about personal-sacrifices to mean that she should starve herself to death. It’s made of just 14 shots – the vast majority of which are static tableaus. That framing means that all the way through the movie you get a basic, visual sense of the strict control and form she’s trying to impose on the chaotic and violent reality of life with her abusive mother and her church.

You’re stuck with her in this rigid, blinkered dream-world – a kind of nightmare bondage she’s put herself in because it’s somehow better than her reality. It’s an endurance to watch; it’s constantly threatening to cross the line into being outright boring – you’re with her in this journey of seeing how much of it you can take. Crucially, the movie is a depiction of a teenage girls struggle with an eating disorder, a rejection of her right to her own body, based on a familial and social sense of shame and pressure, rather than on some idea of a pursuit of an unrealistic body image as portrayed in fashion images etc. In that way it affords sufferers of such conditions a complexity, dignity and intelligence that depictions of them so often deny. It’s a movie about religious fundamentalism, of course, but it’s also a fable that has the potential to reach way beyond its literal scope.

Director Dietrich Brüggemann: "What we see in this scene is basically one static shot where the camera doesn’t move. That is arguably not the way you’d usually make a film. We decided to set up the whole film in this way because it creates an opportunity to perceive an image completely differently; the audience themselves end up framing the image. 

We have six kids sitting around a table at confirmation class in a small town in what I imagine is in south-west Germany. You’ll notice that this picture bears resemblance to Leonardo Da Vinci’s "The Last Supper". This was, of course, deliberate.

What happens in this scene is some indoctrination. The priest tells Maria what it’s all about – how the world works, and why the real world we live in only one half of a bigger truth; there is another world that we enter when we die and that’s where the real action takes place; where god judges whether you’re fit to go to heaven or hell. The priest lays it out really nicely for the kids with a question and answer game, as well as a long monologue, which he pretends to be a dialogue with the kids."